By Marisa Ramirez
The language of future global success is STEM-science, technology, engineering and math, but it is a language in which few middle and high school teachers are fluent. This critical shortage of qualified teachers puts students far behind their counterparts in other countries.
Now, the UH College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics program that works to combat the national shortage of qualified science and math teachers, teachHOUSTON, is the recipient of a $1 million gift from Kitty King Powell. It is the largest private gift given to the UH program that began in 2007.
"The teachHOUSTON program has won national praise for its innovative approach, and it is a program that truly makes a difference at all levels of the educational system," said UH President Renu Khator. "We are proud to receive this generous gift from Mrs. Powell, who strongly considers the values of integrity, big picture thinking, effective program and group process, and leadership building, in deciding where to lend her support."
The funds will be benefit current and future teachHOUSTON students. A portion, $250,000, will be used for scholarships and maintaining current operations. The remainder, $750,000, will begin an endowment to ensure future math and science teachers have an avenue to pursue their passion.
Powell, together with her late husband, Ben H. Powell Jr., is a founding director of the Powell Foundation, a Houston philanthropic organization that supports programs and projects that emphasize education, the arts, health and conservation. Created in 1967, the organization supports such efforts in Harris, Travis and Walker counties. Mrs. Powell also has supported the efforts of UTeach, the model for the UH program.
A math and science teacher preparation program, teachHOUSTON's aim is to help urban schools attract and retain qualified secondary personnel by immersing aspiring math and science educators in public school classroom experiences early in their college careers. Students in their freshman year are paired with a mentor teacher, who guides them through lesson plans, classroom management and, finally, teaching. By graduation, students are eligible for teacher certification in grades 8-12 and placement in area school districts.
"Mrs. Powell's generosity will impact high school math and science education in the Houston area for many years, and it comes at a critical time in the growth of the teachHOUSTON program," said Jeff Morgan, chair of the UH math department and co-director of teachHOUSTON. "This generous gift will play a significant role in helping us achieve our goal of producing 100 new high school math and science teachers per year by 2015."
The program began with 14 students and has grown to 350 students, surpassing not only its own goals, but those of the program it models, UTeach at The University of Texas at Austin. At the end of the 2010 fall semester, the program will have graduated 14 students, who now are teaching math or science in Houston-area public schools.
"The program excited me as an opportunity to have a real impact in the Houston-area schools," said John Cater, chairman of the teachHOUSTON advisory committee. "This program is exceptional in the way it addresses the problem."
One of the goals for the program was to raise $1 million for an endowment by summer 2011 to be eligible for matching funds from the National Math and Science Initiative. The generous Powell gift ensures this goal will be met.
Mrs. Powell is the mother of Nancy Powell Moore, president and treasurer of the Powell Foundation, and Marian Powell Harrison, a director of the foundation.
"We need people with passion," said UH Professor Susan Williams, a math master teacher. "We need people with strong content knowledge and people who understand how to handle a classroom, and that's what teachHOUSTON is about-creating and generating teachers who know how to do that."
For more information on teachHOUSTON click here.
For more information on the teachHOUSTON advisory committee click here.